Imagine all the people deepfaked

A person removing a mask

Via Kottke.

This ‘deepfake’ video of lots of current and former world leaders and other famous people is interesting and provokes all sorts of questions. Some suggest legislation against them, which is what the US seems to be pursuing, but that of course asks further questions about how to ‘police’ them and who has agency. There are, perhaps, some interesting resonances with the increasing use of performance holograms to re-animate dead performers – but there, of course, the legal issues are different. Nevertheless, all sorts of ideas, aesthetic, ethical and otherwise, about ‘authenticity’ crop up (e.g. this from New Scientist, or this on trust in ‘evidence’ re ‘deepfakes’), which we will increasingly be provoked into discussing.

It is interesting, I think, that while those of us in what we call ‘critical’ social sciences or humanities have been developing fairly nuanced articulations of identity and subjectivity, arguing they are not necessarily essential and acknowledging how they are performed (for example), contemporary digital/ social media, and our uses of them, have forged new norms of ‘authenticity’ in relation to identity. Facebook wants ‘true’ names, for instance. “Finsta” (‘f’ denoting ‘fake’), the phenomenon of setting up hidden, often pseudonymous, Instagram accounts – only for selected friends (as opposed to your curated “rinsta” account (‘r’ denoting ‘real’)) shows how these two understandings of the performative nature of identity and the construction of a normative insistence on ‘authenticity’ collide. We might reasonably ask, for instance, why the ‘finsta’/’rinsta’ labels don’t actually mean the reverse if the more public of the two accounts is heavily curated and the ‘secret’ one is in some senses then more ‘authentic’.

‘Deepfakes’ are, amongst other things, a sensory ‘trick’, an attempt to somehow fool the conscious and sub-conscious habitual discernment of what feels whatever it is we mean by ‘authentic’, ‘genuine’ or ‘real’. In some senses, ‘deepfakes’ reveal back to us the extent to which digital media may have shifted how we pay attention and how we feel (about ourselves, others and the world around us) with and through them. Digital media cultivate attention in different ways, many of them perhaps oriented towards a capitalist imperative, also, perhaps, with them we cultivate forms of paying attention. If this is the case then, as was argued in terms of the potency of TV advertising, we may begin to ‘see through’ the ‘tricks’ precisely because we are bombarded with them (for example, the Putin bits in the video above are not very convincing to my eye). Or, to be pessimistic, we may simply begin to assume nothing can be trusted, that all media is created in bad faith, which of course prompts discussions of a crisis of democracy because how can a population make informed decisions without ‘trustworthy’ sources.

HKW Speaking to Racial Conditions Today [video]

racist facial recognition

This video of a panel session at HKW entitled “Speaking to Racial Conditions Today” is well-worth watching.

Follow this link (the video is not available for embedding here).

Inputs, discussions, Mar 15, 2018. With Zimitri Erasmus, Maya Indira Ganesh, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, David Theo Goldberg, Serhat Karakayali, Shahram Khosravi, Françoise Vergès
English original version

Reblog> session on feminist digital geographies at AAG conference April 2019

Women Who Code

Via Gillian Rose. If you’re going to the AAG – this session is sure to be a good one.

Session on feminist digital geographies at AAG conference April 2019

This is a call for papers for a session at the next conference of the American Association of Geographers annual meeting in Washington DC 3-7 April next year on feminist digital geographies, organised by Agnieszka Leszczynski (Western University) and me. It’s sponsored by both the Digital Geographies and the Geographic Perspectives on Women Speciality Groups of the AAG.

In the context of a flurry of activities coalescing around digital geographies, we invite papers that consider the “enduring contours and new directions” of feminist theory, politics, and praxis for geographies concerned with the digital (Elwood and Leszczynski, 2018). We broadly welcome interventions that proceed from, utilize, and advance feminist epistemologies, methodologies, theory, critical practice, and activism.

We are open to submissions offering empirical, theoretical, critical, and methodological contributions across a range of topics, including but not limited to:

  • big data
  • digitally-mediated cities
  • artificial intelligence and algorithms
  • social media
  • feminist/digital/spatial theory
  • progressive alternatives and activism
  • feminist histories and genealogies

Please submit abstracts of no more than 200 words by October 15thto aleszczy@uwo.ca and gillian.rose@ouce.ox.ac.uk. Please include a title, your name, affiliation and email address in the abstract. We will respond to authors with confirmation by November 1st.

Reference:

Elwood S and Leszczynski A (2018) Feminist digital geographies. Gender, Place & Culture25(5): 629-644.

Reblog> Lecture by Stelarc and discussion in DesignLab, U. Twente

Peter Paul Verbeek blogged this, looks good! >>

Lecture by Stelarc and discussion in DesignLab

Thursday 24th of May from 4-7 pm

Location: DesignLab Universiteit Twente

The Australian performance artist Stelarc has visually probed and acoustically amplified his body and is well known for his pioneering work and ideas about extending the capabilities of the human body with technology. From 17th of May until 19th of August, Tetem is presenting the exhibition StickMan by Stelarc. During his stay in Enschede, Stelarc will give an extensive lecture in DesignLab about his pioneering performances and installations – for which he uses prosthetics, robotics, medical instruments, suspension, VR, biotechnology and internet to investigate the psychological and physical limitations of the body.

The event will be introduced by Frank Kresin (managing director of DesignLab). After Stelarc’s lecture, there will be a discussion with Stelarc, Herman van der Kooij (professor in Biomechatronics and Rehabilitation Technology and director of Wearable Robotics Lab) and Peter-Paul Verbeek (professor of Philosophy of Technology and co-director of DesignLab). During the discussion, led by moderator Wilja Jurg (director Tetem), we will explore the scientific, social and ethical implications of wearable robotics.

This event is organized in collaboration with DesignLab as part of StickMan exhibition in Tetem. DesignLab is a creative and cross-disciplinary ecosystem at the University of Twente, connecting science and society through design: https://www.utwente.nl/en/designlab/.

Short description about StickMan:

The StickMan is a minimal but full-body exoskeleton, that algorithmically actuates the artist with six degrees-of-freedom. 64 possible combinations of gestures are generated. Sensors on StickMan generate sounds that augment the pneumatic noise and register the limb movements. A ring of speakers circulates the sounds, immersing the audience in an acoustic landscape as an extension of StickMan’s body.

The StickMan is an anthropomorphized, programmable motion and sound machine which functions with not only the body connected, but also as an installation by itself. A smaller replica of StickMan enables visitors to record and play their choreography by bending the limbs into a sequence of positions, which also inadvertently composes the sounds generated.

StickMan is shown for the first time in Europe. The smaller replica of StickMan was made especially for the exhibition in Tetem.

For more information and events visit:

http://www.tetem.nl/portfolio/stickman/

Reblog> Should robots be granted the status of legal personhood?

Twiki the robot from Buck Rogers

From John Danaher’s Philosophical Disquisitions.

Danaher offers his incisive analysis of recent additions to the debate on legal personhood re. “robots”. Seems interesting (to me) in relation to two things: agency, and how we imagine automation – since we don’t actually have such ‘robots’ at the moment. It’s quite a long post (so only a snippet below), but worth working through… not least because in geographyland it seems to me many of us have a very narrow understanding of these sorts of things from a fairly narrow (simplified) post-structuralist account of ‘subjectivity‘.

Should robots be granted the status of legal personhood?

The EU parliament attracted a good deal of notoriety in 2016 when its draft report on civil liability for robots suggested that at least some sophisticated robots should be granted the legal status of ‘electronic personhood’. British tabloids were quick to seize upon the idea — the report came out just before the Brexit vote — as part of their campaign to highlight the absurdity of the EU. But is the idea really that absurd? Could robots ever count as legal persons?

A recent article by Bryson, Diamantis and Grant (hereinafter ‘BDG’) takes up these questions. In ‘Of, for and by the people: the legal lacuna or synthetic persons’, they argue that the idea of electronic legal personhood is not at all absurd. It is a real but dangerous possibility — one that we should actively resist. Robots can, but should not, be given the legal status of personhood.

BDG’s article is the best thing I have read on the topic of legal personhood for robots. I believe it presents exactly the right framework for thinking about and understanding the debate. But I also think it is misleading on a couple of critical points. In what follows, I will set out BDG’s framework, explain their central argument, and present my own criticisms thereof.

Read the full blogpost.